The U.S. Department of Defense announced this week that they have selected the striker-fired SIG SAUER P320 as the next Modular Handgun System (MHS) for Army troops. The P320 handgun will replace the current Beretta M9 sidearm after over five years of testing and evaluation trials among several manufacturers. SIG SAUER currently supplies other handguns for Special Operations units. This will be the largest handgun military contract since the Beretta M9 was chosen in 1985 to replace the M1911. The M9 was the Army’s chosen pistol for 32 years. Details are not available at this point, but the 2015 Request for Proposals (RFP) for the XM17 MHS required service-grade full-size and compact pistols, standard and extended magazines, ball and hollow point ammo, holsters, training packages, suppressor kits, parts and gauges, etc. to be supplied over 10 years. All pistols will be configurable to receive silencers. At this point, details are not available for how many pistols will be supplied by Sig, specifics of the guns, or the caliber of the rounds, etc. My guess is that we are probably talking about approximately 1.5 million MHS M17 pistols to be supplied. The $580.2 million contract awarded for the MHS will buy a lot of pistols over the 10-year contract period, with an estimated completion date of January 19, 2027. Many manufacturers submitted fine pistols for consideration, including Smith-Wesson, Glock, and Beretta.
Ron Cohen, President and CEO of SIG SAUER, said “We are both humbled and proud that the P320 was selected by the U.S. Army as its weapon of choice. Securing this contract is a testimony to SIG SAUER employees and their commitment to innovation, quality and manufacturing the most reliable firearms in the world.”
The Sig P320 was awarded the 2016 American Rifleman Golden Bullseye “Handgun of the Year” Award and the series consists of the Compact, Subcompact, Carry, and Full-Size versions in various calibers. This review will focus on the Sig P320 Compact 9mm pistol. Earlier, I reviewed the P320 Subcompact, Full-Size, and Carry versions on this website and others. The Sig P320 series of pistols are very adaptable and great performing handguns. Calibers available include 9mm, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and .45 ACP. The interchangeable trigger modularity feature allows the shooter to convert their P320 to another caliber or pistol size with the same trigger control assembly. Overall, after my trip to the Sig Sauer Academy in New Hampshire, I am impressed with the P320 series, especially their adaptability, modularity, reliability, quality, and recommended the Full-Size and Subcompact in my previous reviews of those versions. In my opinion, the excellence of the Sig line is very recognizable and should perform well for our military. You should know that SIG SAUER is not paying me or influencing me for my review or opinions nor giving me or significantly reducing the price of the guns, so I am not on their payroll and sincerely want to give my objective evaluation to help folks.
I want to analyze, evaluate, field test, and then give you my specific opinions of the Sig P320 Compact 9mm. Did the Army make the right call for our troops and their needs? Is the P320 Compact an appropriate gun to meet our needs, as average civilian shooters? I have reviewed several 9mm handguns in depth in the past few months, several on this website. I evaluate my Top 21 CC guns in the 2016 second printing of my book “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials.” First, I will present my criteria, range test the P320, and then give you my results. I hope my process and analysis will help you analyze your handguns and make the best selection for yourself. You can add or subtract from my criteria to meet your needs and preferences. I will compare it factor by factor to my other quality carry 9mm guns to see if it truly ranked in my top CC pistols. Know that I am not on the Sig payroll, have not been paid by them for this review, paid for this gun myself, and not influenced to say certain things about the gun. I want to be honest and straight-forward with my opinions and ideas the way I see the pistol to sincerely help folks.
Initially, I want to give you two charts that list the Specifications and some Features for the SIG SAUER P320 Compact 9mm pistol. Next, I give you my 10 criteria that I use to evaluate all guns. Finally, I present my analysis and how I specifically evaluated this gun against each of my criteria to recommend or not recommend it. As always, set your own criteria and priorities, do your own research and check my data, information, etc. with yours, for your very personal selection process.
Criteria and Considerations
Here are just 10 of my Criteria and factors I use for evaluating any handgun, so I will use them for the P320. In addition to my criteria, there are other subjective features that may be appealing for some, like smooth rounded corners, a certain style, mag release location, action, caliber, appearance, number of mags included, type of sights/modifications, bore axis, rail, grip angle, non-porting or porting, included extras like a holster and pouch, customer service, etc. So, I combined these into my last Miscellaneous criterion. I must admit that ALL gun-choice decisions involve tradeoffs, but I really want ALL of my criteria to be met. I assigned a total possible point score of 10 points for each of my 10 criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. You can certainly add your own additional criteria and preferences or subtract any of mine.
Modularity & Customization
With the P320, one single pistol can become a full-size, compact, or sub-compact handgun and each with 3 different grip sizes. With all P320 models, shooters can swap out the pistol’s barrel, frame, trigger and slide assembly to customize the gun. Sig recognized the significance of a striker-fired pistol, introduced these hammer-less guns, and they are popular primarily because of the nature of the trigger operation and modularity features. The P320 can be changed into whatever frame size, barrel, and caliber the shooter wants. Among the components needed for the P320 to complete a caliber change is a cartridge-specific magazine and the conversion kit. The backstrap does not need to be changed, since the entire polymer grip module can be easily changed for a comfortable, customizable, and solid grip if desired. The stainless steel frame rests inside the grip module, which is serialized, and they use identical, serialized, modular fire-control (trigger) groups. Other non-serialized P320 parts can be ordered and shipped direct to you without going through an FFL Dealer. With its modular grip frame and removable fire control assembly pioneered by SIG SAUER, the P320 is customizable to any hand size or duty requirement. The P320 can quickly be converted from a Full-size to a Carry pistol, etc. Slide and barrel conversions allow the P320 to change between calibers and barrel lengths as well. This unique modular design offers the shooter the ultimate in flexibility to change calibers, sizes, and fit. Small, medium, and large polymer grip modules ensure comfortable and optimal fit for the widest range of hand sizes. My 320 full-size and compact mags even work in my 320 sub-compact.
I like the P320 grip angle and that the mags and holsters are interchangeable (some with the X grip adapter) and with Sig P250 models. The X grip adapter allows you to use the compact mags for 15 capacity or the 17 capacity ones. The X grip adapter is a little piece of rubber that fills the gap when youre using larger-capacity mags. With the SIG SAUER internal safety system, the P320 has no external safety or decocking lever to snag or hang up on the draw and I like that. The SIGLITE® night sights are very nice and the reversible magazine release makes the P320 completely ambidextrous. It also has an ambidextrous slide release. There are also nice front and rear cocking serrations.
SIG SAUER P320 Compact 9mm Range Test
I wanted to run the 320 Compact thoroughly to test how well it cycled and handled different loads. So, I shot high-quality Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown 9mm JHP in 124 grain and their Elite Ball FMJ in 115 grain weight. I only fired about 300 rounds total to evaluate this gun (usually I shoot 500 rounds over a couple of days) to decide if I want to carry the gun or not. The ammo worked very well and I had the information I needed after shooting the 320 Compact. Below are my evaluations for each of my 10 criteria for my concealed carry purpose. I wanted to put the gun through its paces and check it thoroughly for malfunctions, stoppages, and performance with quality JHP ammo and FMJ rounds, etc. I want to thank Sig Sauer for providing the FMJ and JHP Elite Performance ammo for me to test and evaluate the 320.
The 320 Compact has really nice ergonomics. It felt good in my hands, was comfortable, and the grips felt solid in my hand. The slide was easy for me to rack and the felt recoil and muzzle rise were very manageable, since it was made of steel and had the dual recoil spring assembly. The 320’s stainless steel frame and slide helped. Below I will get into the evaluation factors and my ideas for each of my criteria after my range testing.
I was glad that I had no malfunctions or stoppages at all with the 320 and the various Sig Sauer types and weights of ammo fired. After my range live fire, it impressed me as a very accurate handgun. After initially cleaning the gun and then shooting it at the range for the first time, my first 15 rounds fired rapid fire with the Sig V-Crown 124 grain JHP and then the Elite Ball 115 grain FMJ at 7 yards all hit in a nice 3.0″ or slightly less group. I prefer the premium V-Crown JHPs and did better with those rounds. These hits were very acceptable for me for close-up self-defense encounters, since I’m not shooting precision bullseyes, but rather self-defense rounds. BUT, shoot it for yourself to make your own decisions, based on your abilities, goals, proficiency, and purpose. Below are my hits for my first 15 rounds at 7 yards slow-fired rapid with the 320 Compact.
Range Test Results for the SIG SAUER P320 Compact 9mm for each of my 10 Criteria:
1. Accuracy and Reliability – Score = 10
The Accuracy of the 320 was very acceptable for self defense for me at distances of 3, 7, 10, and 15 yards, given my aging eyesight. My groups at each of the up-close encounter distances were about 2.0-3.0 inches for the first time I ever fired the gun, after first cleaning it. Groups were not as good for me at 10 and15 yards, but acceptable for self-defense encounters. I fired about 300 total rounds for this test and want to fire a total of 500 rounds to break-in ANY carry gun I’m betting my life on. The 6.5# trigger press was crisp, short and smooth. Although harder than I wanted, it was certainly acceptable, meeting my personal preference press range and criterion. The heavier steel weight of the gun with ammo, its excellent grip surfaces and the dual recoil spring all helped make the recoil very manageable and contributed to my accuracy. The tight quality fit was very evident with no shakes nor rattles for extra movement. I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, & successfully shot high-performance Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown JHP and Elite FMJ rounds.
2. Trigger Press – Score = 9
The Trigger Press out-of-the-box averaged about 6.7 pounds with 5 readings from my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. This was acceptable for me, but I wanted less press weight. Over time, I’m certain it will diminish, given the limited 300 rounds I fired with it. It will probably improve after break-in and getting 500 rounds through it. I prefer that my EDC carry guns have much less. While I recognize that my brain is my best safety, I do not want a too light trigger for concealed carry, nor do I want a heavier one either. Trigger press on all P320 pistols are generally weighted at 5.5 to 6.5 pounds, giving shooters a consistent trigger press. I understand that it is not necessarily the trigger weight, but the smoothness of the whole action of the trigger assembly that makes the difference. This trigger press is close to what I want and most acceptable.
3. Trigger – Score = 10
The trigger was smooth, crisp and very good. It had a short travel distance and nice identifiable reset, so I could get off quick follow-up shots easily and keep on target easier. The reset was very identifiable. Overall, the stock trigger is very good and I could handle the recoil easily and it was mild for me. With the striker mechanism, I found the P320 to have a short, crisp trigger press with a quick, pronounced reset right out-of-the-box. I really like the reset and could clearly feel and hear it.
4. Barrel Length – Score = 10
The barrel length of 3.9″ was just right for this striker-fired pistol, especially for concealed carry. It helped with consistent and reliable shooting. There was a solid barrel to slide fit without rattles.
5. Sights – Score = 9
The factory Siglite night sights were easily identifiable and I like them. For my limited rounds-down-range, they were reliable and right on. At night time, I found the Sig night sights to be easy to see and use. I do like fiber optic sights best, because of my color-blindness and deteriorating vision- personal for me.
6. Gun Weight – Score = 9
The weight of the gun was about 26 ounces with an unloaded magazine in place and this is manageable for concealed carry. I do like a slightly heavier gun for better recoil control, comfort, and accuracy.
7. Caliber – Score = 10
The 9mm caliber was just the right caliber for me for carry and/or home defense and I strongly prefer it, as you probably know from the reasons in my other articles. So the P320 Compact met this requirement.
8. Capacity – Score = 10
The capacity of the 320 C mags are 15+1 in 9mm and this gives me mental comfort, especially when dealing with multiple bad guys and when compared to some of my other CC guns with less capacity. The mags were quality made of steel and two mags were included, both 15 rounders. I would have liked to have had one more mag included and believe all shooters should have at least 3 mags for each gun they own. I quickly bought 4 additional mags for myself, since I decided to buy this pistol. They will fit my other 320 series guns and they all dropped freely from the mag well and chambered rounds easily without any malfunctions or stoppages at all.
9. Ergonomics – Score = 9
The Ergonomics of ther 320 are ideal for me. The modularity features and the changeable trigger assembly are very handy. You can easily change the grip shells and removable frames to custom fit the gun to your hand. I must be “Mr. Medium” because the medium configurations fit me great. The removable trigger assembly is the serialized part, so you can buy exchange kits in other calibers and pistol sizes ranging from subcompact to full-size. Various sizes of grip shells and colors are offered. The picatinny rail and front and rear slide serrations are nice features. The mag release can be repositioned to either side for an ambidextrous advantage and the slide lock lever is on both sides. The width of the 320 C felt good in my hand and was nice for me. The grip angle was just right and it felt very comfortable, especially when shooting. Some of my regular carry guns are narrower than this compact 320 which is 1.3″ wide. To me, width is a key CC factor, but this width was acceptable.
10. Miscellaneous – Score = 9
The hard case comes with a paddle holster, two mags, lock, and instruction manual. The standard Internal Safety System of all 320s features a Striker Safety that prevents the striker from releasing until the trigger is pressed and a Disconnect Safety that prevents the gun from firing when out of battery. There is a 3-Point Take-Down Disassembly Safety System that only allows disassembly if the slide is locked back, the mag removed, and take-down lever rotated, without pressing the trigger or using tools. I wanted 3 mags included.
Total Points = 95 out of 100 Possible
I certainly RECOMMEND this handgun for consideration as your concealed carry compact or home defense 9mm handgun. I believe the U.S. Army made a good choice for its military fighter needs, although there are other very good compact 9mm options on the market now. Its modularity features with exchangeable frames/grips, trigger assembly, calibers, dual recoil spring, picatinny rail, crisp trigger with positive reset, and accuracy and reliability should serve us all well. I especially like its accuracy, manageable recoil, and short, smooth, and crisp DAO striker trigger. The felt recoil was very manageable and not a problem for me. While the 6.7# trigger press is acceptable to me, I prefer a lighter press. Certainly, with more rounds down range the press will lighten some after break-in. I do want to shoot it more to see its long-term reliability before I decide to put it in my CC rotation and replace my 9mms. I was very impressed with its accuracy and that I had no malfunctions or stoppages whatsoever with the few rounds I fired. Well, these are just my opinions and ideas, so handle and shoot it for yourself.
I hope this review of the P320 Compact 9mm pistol has helped you gain some information you did not previously have. Again, consider that these are just my opinions with limited live-range fire and shooting myself only about 300 rounds of various ammo. Like always, I recommend that you shoot any handgun yourself before you purchase it. Decide on your criteria, how you will primarily use the gun, and what features are important to you and you are willing to pay for ahead of your range time. Then critically evaluate the gun YOURSELF per your criteria and purpose, with standard drills (several mentioned in my book), with various ammo types and brands, over an extended break-in period of about 500 rounds. Remember, Safety First Always.
Continued Success & Be Safe!
Newington, NH; 03801
Sig Sauer Ammo
Newington, NH 03801
Photos by Author and Sig Sauer.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2017 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].